The birthday party may not be exactly what Rita Patel envisioned, but she still plans to mark the momentous occasion.

Patel, co-owner of Hotel Trundle, and husband Marcus Munse opened the downtown Columbia boutique lodging establishment on April 9, 2018. Days before that anniversary this year, the hotel posted an Instagram picture announcing the pausing of hotel operations.

"It's crazy because this week is our birthday week," Patel said Monday. "I don't know what we're going to do yet, but we're definitely going to celebrate. If it has to be at home, we'll blow out a candle or something."

Patel said Hotel Trundle began to see a "steady increase" in cancellations at the beginning of March across the business board, from leisure and corporate travel to group reservations for big events such as weddings. Staff hours had to be drastically sliced as the effects of the COVID-19 crisis mounted.

"We did some shifting around, and we were able to hold it together for a while," Patel said. "We averaged about five or six rooms a night those first couple of weeks, and then it was just getting to where we didn't need housekeeping staff at all."

As Patel and Munse watched news reports of escalating cases of the new coronavirus, they decided to close their doors temporarily, even though hotels are considered essential services in a stay-at-home order issued by the city of Columbia and not listed as nonessential in an executive order from the governor.

"We could've probably broken even if we really wanted to, but the public health responsibility weighed in more than the financial," Patel said. "We were really fortunate because we were in a good financial position to pause. Our team is getting paid leave and we're providing the mental health benefits that we always did. We did that just to make sure that they're safe and healthy and that they're all ready to go when the time finally does arrive that we can reopen, which I'm really looking forward to."

Patel said Munse went into work on Monday morning "and kind of prepped for closure, set the away message and our voice mail and all that good stuff. I think it's the right thing to do. I'm not afraid. I know that we will reopen. Columbia is really resilient, and the amount of support that we're received has been incredible."

Patel said she and Munse have kept on top of small business loan information, and "we're just going to hunker down and wait it out," she said. "We're in...

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